This column was originally posted last Christmas.

A Christmas Carol is one of my favourite redemption stories. Charles Dickens introduces Ebenezer Scrooge as a wealthy but miserly man whose quest to save money hurts himself and others around him. In the end, he is a changed man. Scrooge gets a bad reputation because we tend tend to focus on who he was before his transformation rather than after. I want to be more like Scrooge after he changed his ways.

3 Ways to be more like Scrooge

1. Reflect

It wasn’t until Scrooge looked back on his life; the mistakes, the regrets and the opportunities missed could he truly understand who he was. When he took some time to reflect back, he realized he wasn’t the person he wanted to be.

There was a time when I was too careful with my money. We allowed no margin for enjoyment. It wasn’t until I reflected on my life and realized I wasn’t the person I wanted to be that I was able to create more financial balance in my life. For me that meant saving for the future as well as spending money now in ways that aligned with my values.

2. Give

Generosity is the best antidote to selfishness and a miserly attitude. Scrooge made the decision to change but it was only when he gave that his attitude changed.

When we’re under financial stress our deepest desire is to hold on tighter to everything we’ve got. Yet, when we make the conscious choice to give some of it away, it’s incredibly freeing. It’s counter intuitive but it works. The next time you’re feeling miserly, give to someone in need or to your favourite charity and watch how it changes your thinking.

3. Appreciate

Scrooge realized through his ghostly journeys that he had a family who loved him, a hardworking loyal employee in Bob Crachit and good health. He also saw that despite Tiny Tim’s illness, Bob Crachit appreciated everything he had, even his miserly employer.

On days when your feeling particularly miserable about finances, take the time to think about everything for which you’re grateful. It is no surprise that ‘miserly’ and ‘miserable’ have the same etymological root. Too often we can focus on what we don’t have rather than appreciating everything we do have.

Wouldn’t we all like the opportunity to project ourselves into the future and see the possible outcome? I’ve often though it would be rather convenient to know the exact date of my death. It would make retirement planning a whole lot easier if I knew exactly how many years my savings needed to last. If I had the opportunity to stand at my grave and watch the mourners around me, I wonder if there is something I’d want to change now.

More than 150 years after A Christmas Carol was written, its themes are still relevant. It doesn’t have to take a midnight haunting to change the way you live. It’s possible to change now. If you don’t like your miserable miserly ways, try being more like Scrooge by reflecting, giving and valuing what you already have.

Kathryn works in public relations and training for a non profit. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Her passions include personal finance and adult education. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.


  1. Beth on December 23, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Great post, and I totally agree! The Muppets’ Christmas Carol (my favourite version of the tale) is on my must-see list every Christmas.

    That and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” — another favourite!

  2. paul s on December 23, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Great article. Kathryn, really apprecite the perspective you add to an already great blog.


  3. cannon_fodder on December 23, 2009 at 11:47 am

    I’ve heard, and I believe it, that we are more likely to look back and regret the things we didn’t do more than what we’ve done.

    Some people are fortunate to be born with an innate love of saving rather than spending. The downside to that is the creeping evolution to becoming a slave to hoarding money for no other purpose than to see the amount grow. But, I’d rather be “afflicted” with that than someone who only feels fulfilled, albeit temporarily, when spending money – even if you can’t afford it.

    My wife and I complement each other in that she has influenced me to open up the purse strings a little more so we can enjoy the here and now. Conversely, I’ve affected her mindset so that she begrudgingly puts aside money automatically for retirement savings.

    We look forward to the time when we will be financially independent so that we can spend a lot more time, not money, on charitable pursuits. We strongly believe that there will be greater benefits for both parties if we can participate directly rather than just donate.

    But, all of this reflection and giving is most effective if you truly feel blessed. My wife and I know that we are very lucky to have found each other and to be in the positions we are. Although her family is physically but not emotionally close to her, we know that if she needed them they would not hesitate to support her. On the other hand, my family is not close physically but is involved emotionally which provides that day-to-day comfort.

    No matter how bad things get, there are many people in more difficult positions than you are – and they get through it. It is that thought that helps us navigate through challenging times.

  4. Big Scroogy Guy on December 23, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I’d like to have Scrooge’s money to be generous with :-)

  5. Caitlin on December 23, 2009 at 11:55 am

    What a great twist on being like Scrooge!

  6. Four Pillars on December 23, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Another great post.

    Merry Xmas everyone – have a great holidays.

  7. penny stock on December 23, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Great Article, you got me with the title!

    Thanks and Happy Holidays!

  8. - This is why I opened an ING account on December 23, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    very well written. Merry xmas to all.
    Serenity, health and happiness

  9. cashback cards on December 23, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    There is no better than to give, but have the right attitude when you give!
    Merry Christmas to all!

  10. Elbyron on December 23, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    I agree with cannon_fodder that donating time is much more fulfilling than donating money. I enjoy my time volunteering at the local food bank, yet I probably donate less food than the typical middle-income earner. Next summer I hope to find some time to help Habitat for Humanity build some houses. It just feels great to “do” something for others rather than just give away money (which I have a hard time parting with).
    And I absolutely will never give handouts to beggars on the streets. It’s not the right way to help them.

  11. Kathryn on December 23, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Good points about giving time as well as or in lieu of money. We try to do both but I confess it’s often easier to just give the money. It’s a lot more sacrificial at this busy stage of life to give time.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  12. Bruce on December 24, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Merry X’mas everyone!

  13. Peeve on December 24, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    I always wanted to me more like Scrooge McDuck. But you are right – if I can’t have a moneybin with a giant dollar sign and booby traps against the Beagle Boys, I might as well open my heart and pursestrings…

  14. Doctor Stock on December 25, 2009 at 2:12 am

    Another Great Post – Merry Christmas Everyone!

  15. Link Wheels on December 25, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Another great post Kathryn,
    Merry Christmas Everyone!
    Regards, David Pagotto

  16. Jimmee on December 26, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Wow, what a great post. I rate a great post by the idea it plants in my mind and I walk away with, and this post will stay with me for awhile I’m sure.

    Reflect, appreciate, share and enjoy,

    Words to live by.

    Joy to all who share “true wealth”.

  17. Christina on December 28, 2009 at 12:23 am

    A very nice read with a great twist…

  18. Jim Kibler on December 28, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Scrooge had a chance to change his ways. Many people don’t. At Christmas time I will spend as much as it takes to get something nice for people I love.

  19. Jungle on December 23, 2010 at 2:08 am

    Kathryn your writing is really good in this post. Next time I am feeling down I will look around and appreciate everything I have.

    Thanks so much and happy holidays to you and your family.

  20. thirtysomethingmoney on December 23, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Great Post… for the ‘give like scrooge’, I did something different this year. Each Christmas, my organization does the 50/50 draw, where 50% goes to charity, and 50% goes to the winner… I happened to win (yay). But, in the spirit of Christmas, decided to put it all back to charity. The entry only cost me $10… but from that, the winnings I had, made it a $120 donation — it made me feel pretty good, plus it made me look good to my coworkers (an unexpected bonus). While I wont win the 50/50 every year, it helped me realize the value in giving — next year, I’ll pick a cause and donate to them directly in the spirit of the season

  21. youngandthrifty on December 23, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    That was one of my favourite Christmas cartoons/ movies to watch as a kid. I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

    True wealth is being able to spend time with your loved ones and show them how much they mean to you.

  22. cannon_fodder on December 23, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Where is Kathryn anyway? I know I haven’t been following this blog as consistently as I used to…

  23. FrugalTrader on December 24, 2010 at 8:59 am

    @youngandthrifty, thanks and happy holidays to you and yours as well

    @cannon – Kathryn accepted a new job which has required a greater commitment. Hopefully she’ll be back to write a few articles as the readers really enjoyed her columns.

  24. djia futures on January 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    It is important to give back. Even if you are not well off enough to give money, then you can give time, which is often harder. It always puts your own life into perspective when you see it after helping someone else

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